Kerry to travel to Russia to see Putin


John Kerry will travel to Russia next week to meet with Vladimir Putin. Topics to be discussed include Syria and the Ukraine.

Kerry is riding the merry-go round of the U.N. Geneva process, which was lauched under the leadership of Kofi Annan with U.N. Security Council backing in 2012. The process has led to two Geneva conferences neither of which produced any results, first under the coordination of Annan, then Lakhmar Brahimi, and now Stefan de Mistura, who have led the new U.N. multi-million dollar bureaucracy created in Geneva.  The merry-go-round continues, whirling and whirling seemingly on its own propulsion, fueled by the illusions of those in the West who have no strategy to stop Bashar al-Assad’s civil war and atrocities.

Kerry’s assumption is that if you get all the parties talking to each other, a ceasefire will quickly ensue followed by a “political solution” to the conflict.

The West and the Arab states are at least going through the motions. A coalition of Syrian opposition groups met in Riyad, Saudi Arabia this week and are said to have reached agreement on a common negotiating position. Iran and Russia will be parties to the talks.

If the course of the Syrina conflict over the last four years is any guide, the chances of Kerry talking Putin into modifying his unqualified military and diplomatic support for al-Assad, as a result of words spoken by Obama or Kerry, seem remote. We will stay tuned.

Frederic C. Hof has summarized the wishful thinking of Kerry and Obama in an excellent opinion piece in the Wasington Post, which adroitly highlights the U.S. president’s pennchant for telling other leaders what they should do, without adopting a strategy and taking actions likely to induce them to do so.

Frederic C. Hof (Opinion). “Obama and Kerry’s wishful thinking on Syria,” Washington Post, December 11, 2015. (Frederic C. Hof, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, served as a special adviser for transition in Syria at the State Department in 2012.)

Of course, Putin’s goals are pretty clear. He wants the E.U. and the U.S. to lift the economic sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion and “annexation” of the Crimea, and its ongoing invasion of the eastern Ukraine. The EU sanctions are up for renewal in January, 2016.

Putin would surely like to trade a lifting of sanctions for “cooperation” in fighting the Islamic State or ISIS, and vague promises of cooperation in solving the Syrian conflict.

All that is required is that Kerry and Obama look the other way and sanction Russia’s aggression against the Ukraine and its continuing violation of the prohibition against the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, contained in Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter.

Article 2(4) is norm of jus cogens or peremptory law, from which under international law there can be no exception even by agreement.

It is the fundamental norm underlying the post-war legal and security order established in 1945 in the United Nations Charter.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.